Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Iran — Rick Moran @ 6:15 pm

Is it possible that Iran is using a two track approach in its efforts to head off sanctions as well as cool the rhetoric between Tehran and Washington?

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hectoring letter to George Bush was rightly dismissed by the US government largely because it offered absolutely nothing in the way of concrete proposals for a starting point in negotiations. It was 17 pages of Ahmadinejad - cloistered as he is in Iranian cuckoo land - believing both Arab propaganda as well as the over-the-top exaggerated rhetoric used by the left in the west about America and Bush, telling the President where he’s gone wrong. The exercise would be laughable except one must keep in mind that Ahmadinejad will one day be in possession of a weapon that he has made absolutely plain to all but the most willfully self deluded will be used to destroy Israel and if at all possible, the United States of America.

And while the Iranian President offered nothing new in the letter, it has been rightly pointed out that there was a slight - only a slight - cooling of the overheated, hateful rhetoric that is usually employed by him when talking about the United States. It says something absolutely damning about Iran when we take it as a positive sign that the President of a fairly large nation did not use the term “Great Satan” when talking about America.

It is a real possibility that this letter was meant largely for domestic (and regional) purposes, designed to show the Iranian President as a reasonably sane, albeit a ridiculously ignorant and misinformed person. There certainly was nothing in the letter that could be used as the basis for opening a dialogue.

Then, the other shoe drops.

Time Magazine has revealed that they received another letter on the same day that Ahmadinejad’s letter was delivered to Bush by the Swiss. This communication was from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini’s representative on the Iranian National Security Council Hassan Rohani, and Iran’s former top nuclear negotiator under former President Khatami. It is this letter that appears to contain the meat of Iranian proposals to jump start direct negotiations with the United States:

In the two-page memorandum, intended for publication in the West, Hassan Rohani,representative of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, on the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and Iran’s former top nuclear negotiator, defends Iran’s nuclear posture, decries American bullying, and puts forward a plan to remove the nuclear issue from the U.N. Security Council and return it to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, a long-standing Iranian goal.

The letter also offers some specific Iranian starting points for negotiation. Rohani said Iran would “consider ratifying the Additional Protocol, which provides for intrusive and snap inspections,” and that it would also “address the question of preventing ‘break-out’” — or abandonment of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Independent nuclear experts consulted by TIME said these proposals were “hopeful” signs.

Why didn’t Ahmadinejad include these proposals in his letter, a communication that was sure to get the widest possible airing due to the historic nature of the missive: It represented the first direct communication between leaders of the two countries since 1979? Why use a media outlet like Time Magazine to make such a serious diplomatic overture?

And make no mistake, these proposals represent a possible breakthrough. The Europeans and the IAEA tried for three years to get Iran to agree to these “snap inspections” which are vital if any kind of confidence can be achieved in monitoring the Iranian program. And their possible agreement to abide by the NPT is another hopeful sign that someone or some faction may be trying to reign in the Iranian President and take a step or two back from the precipice that Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric and actions have brought the Islamic Republic.

The reason for the two track approach to negotiations is not clear and could mean several things. Ahmadinejad could be more subtle than we give him credit for - a longshot to be sure but not impossible. Or his boss Khameini could be either undercutting his efforts or trying to rein him in, seeing the danger of an increasingly isolated Iran. After all, Khameini used as his errand boy the very man that Ahmadinejad fired when he came into office. The Iranian President was unhappy with the moderate’s approach to the negotiations and replaced them with hardliners, virtually guaranteeing that the talks with Germany, France, and Great Britain on their nuclear program would fail.

If it is a sign of factionalism rearing its ugly head in Iran, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. While the Iranian President has been busy gutting the civil service by purging long time employees and replacing them with fanatics (his foreign minister was kicked out of Turkey when he was Ambassador for supporting attacks against Iranian dissidents), a crisis is brewing with the west over his nuclear program that demands experienced, level headed hands to defuse. This communication that we must assume comes directly from Supreme Leader Khameini, is the first hopeful sign that cooler heads might be prevailing at the highest levels and Ahamdinejad may have to change directions or find himself out of a job (or, more likely, on a mortuary slab - victim of an assassination).

This is not the first time that a government wishing to use a back channel to talk with the United States has used the media as a go-between. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Nikita Kruschev used an old army friend, Alexander Fromin, who was a Counselor at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, to contact ABC News correspondent John Scali in order to have the reporter carry personal messages to Kennedy from the Soviet Premiere. Kruschev used the Fromin-Scali channel to bypass his Central Committee who were determined to keep the missiles in Cuba unless the US gave in on moving its missiles out of Turkey. Kennedy eventually gave in to that demand (along with guaranteeing Cuban sovereignty by promising not to invade) but got the Soviets to keep that part of the deal quiet.

Scali later said that while he was troubled by being used in this manner by both governments, he fully recognized the stakes involved and was therefore willing to act as a go between.

While this second diplomatic track using Time Magazine doesn’t have quite the drama of Scali’s secret diplomacy, it could prove to be just as crucial in getting the US and Iran to the bargaining table to head off a confrontation that would result in untold consequences for the region, and for both Iran and the United States.


Marc Schulman has an extremely detailed posting on what exactly was in that second letter as well as some quotes from people who (unlike me) know what the heck they’re talking about:

William Samii, the longtime senior Iran analyst at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, says this:

In the context of Iran’s domestic politics, which is the driving force behind Iran’s nuclear initiative, Rohani’s proposals are significant because they have the imprimatur of the Supreme Leader, who would have approved them in advance . . . The important, if implicit message to Washington in Rohani’s declaration is you may not like hardline President Ahmadinejad, but we do have more pragmatic leaders with concrete proposals, like Rohani, whom you have known for years, and whom you can deal with now if you want. His proposals amount to recognition of Washington’s concerns.

Mr. Samii seems rather incurious that the Iranian President is having his legs cut off by the Supreme Leader, especially given what Ahmadinejad has been up to in the last few months with his various purges. What Samii seems to be saying is that the Iranian government has split in two - just ignore our President and deal instead with the Supreme Leader Khameini.

Is he saying we can reach some kind of agreement with him and ignore whatever Ahmadinejad says? What the heck is going on in Iran?


  1. Ahmadinejad’s Latest Declaration…

    Well, it now appears that Iran wasn’t sending President Bush a love note earlier this week. It was a call to submit to Islam or face the consequences. Just as Robert Spencer had said when the contents were first revealed.

    Trackback by A Blog For All — 5/11/2006 @ 8:46 pm

  2. I’m extremely surprised that this second letter has received scant attention in the MSM and in the blogosphere. I can see no reason why their anti-Bush bias would cause the MSM to conclude that Rohani’s letter isn’t newsworthy. Can you?

    The blogosphere’s limited interest is, if anything, even more inexplicable.

    Comment by Marc Schulman — 5/11/2006 @ 9:21 pm

  3. The Iranian Missile Crisis

    Time magazine reveals that they too received a love letter from Iran regarding the regime’s runaway nuclear program….a second document, written by a top Iranian official and given to TIME just before Ahmadinejad’s letter was made public, offers a m…

    Trackback by The Zero Point — 5/12/2006 @ 6:03 am

  4. Before the nuke-issue became the only topic of public opinion, do you recall the Iranian economy was deplorable, restlessness in the public mosques, young folks considering revolt, attention starting to focus on Iran’s role in Iraq, open support for terrorists groups, amoung others.

    So what to do? Why not just rev up a nuke threat, and create a crisis. The score so far seems to be hugely on the side of Iranian objectives:

    a. huge increases in oil revenue looks to have salvaged their ecnonomy since their actions have added a fear premium (maybe 10-15 US$ per barrel?)
    b. purge the malecontents. Stalin killed millions mostly without notice while the West focused on all kinds of things.
    c. other external activities viewed unflavorable by others are mostly given a pass and fade to noise level.
    d. add immensely to the “Arab street” image of Iran (ala Nassar) in standing up to the West.
    e. enlist the usual divisions in the West that seem only to focus on the most recent event as “crisis” management.

    I’d agree this is a gambit, but a minor one. This one will play out over the next year or so, much like the Ali Rope-a-Dope. Iran Islamist will be much, much stronger and will claim yet another win in a much greater game.

    Comment by rdh — 5/12/2006 @ 7:12 am

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